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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of normal breasts

Tirohanga whānui ki ngā ū noa

breast anatomyYour breasts are made up of different types of tissue. These include lobules (which contain your milk-producing glands), ducts (for moving the milk to your nipple), fatty tissue, connective tissue, blood vessels, lymph vessels and nerves. Changes can happen in any of these and cause a lump in your breast.

Your breasts can change with the normal hormonal changes of your menstrual cycle. Many women have some discomfort, tenderness or a feeling of lumpiness in their breasts at some time during their menstrual cycle. It's usually noticeable in the days leading up to their period, then it gets better once their period has started.

For some women, this pain and lumpiness can cause symptoms that continue for many days. Their breasts feel generally lumpy and possibly heavy and swollen. This is called fibrocystic disease and mostly happens in women between 30 and 50. While fibrocystic disease is harmless, it sometimes causes worrying lumps that women decide to get checked by their general practice team.

If you find a lump in your breast, you should see your general practice team as soon as possible. You should also see your general practice team if you notice any skin or nipple changes or have a discharge from your nipples.

On the next page: Overview of breast lumps

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.

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Review key: HIBRL-129242